Researchers create a tiny wireless camera that can fit on an insect's back

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed a tiny wireless camera that is steerable and is small enough to fit on the back of an insect. The camera can stream video to a smartphone at between one and five frames per second and sits on a mechanical arm that can pivot 60 degrees. The pivoting design of the camera allows the viewer to capture high-resolution panoramic shots or track a moving object.

The camera system weighs about 250 mg, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card. The prototype cameras mounted on top of a live beetle and insect-sized robots. The researchers say they have developed a low power, low weight wireless camera system able to capture a first-person view of what's happening from a live insect. The camera can also be used to create a live vision for small robots.

The researchers note that until their work wireless vision has it been possible for small robots or insects. Cameras like those used on smartphones require a lot of power to take wide-angle, high-resolution photos preventing the system from working at a scale small enough to be used with insects. The researchers used a tiny, ultra-low-power black-and-white camera able to sweep across the field of view with the help of a mechanical arm.

The mechanical arm moves when a voltage is applied the makes material bend and move the camera to the required position. Unless the team applies more power, the arm stays at that angle for about a minute before relaxing back to its original position. The advantage of moving the camera is that you can get a wide-angle view of what's happening around the insect or robot without expending lots of power.

The camera and armor controlled via Bluetooth from a smartphone at a distance of up to 120 m away. In research, the team connected their cameras to a pair of insects, ensuring that the Beatles were able to move properly and carrying the camera. The bugs were able to navigate freely across gravel, upslope, and climbed trees.